An op-ed appeared in the Detroit Free Press on October 10, 2014 from Chris Kolb of Michigan Environmental Council and Gail Gruenwald of Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council. They point out that of all the threats the Great Lakes face, a pipeline spill could be the most devastating.
The bottomlands of the Great Lakes are held in trust by the State of Michigan for use and enjoyment by its citizens. The state, as the owner and trustee, has a perpetual responsibility to the public to manage these bottomlands and waters for the prevention of pollution, for the protection of the natural resources and to maintain the public's rights of hunting, fishing, navigation and commerce. The governor, therefore, has both the legal authority and the duty to ensure Enbridge is doing all it can to prevent an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac.
The governor should require Enbridge to submit an application under the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act, which allows the state to convey permission to use Great Lakes bottomlands after confirming that the bottomlands and surrounding waters will not be impaired or substantially affected. This step would help to protect the Great Lakes from the threat of a catastrophic oil spill, and would allow the public to participate and hold the state accountable to its solemn duty as trustee.
Some threats to our Great Lakes — think invasive species — pose long-term risks that unfold slowly. Just west of the Mackinac Bridge lurks a hazard that could devastate the lakes in a matter of minutes.
Chris Kolb is president of the Lansing-based Michigan Environmental Council. Gail Gruenwald is executive director of Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, based in Petoskey.